61st Monte-Carlo Television Festival: The Reunion
BY Yako Molhov
The 61st Monte-Carlo Television Festival, which took place from 17-21 June, hosted a press conference featuring a sneak-peek at the highly-anticipated drama series ‘The Reunion’ on Sunday, 19 June. The conference featured Ioan Gruffud (Liar), Grégory Fitoussi (Spiral), Vahina Giocante (Trader Games TBC), Bill Eagles (Director) and Sydney Gallonde (Executive Producer) who revealed details about the production of the show and the characters in the story.

Based on Guillaume Musso’s novel ‘La Jeune Fille et la Nuit’, ‘The Reunion’ tells the captivating story of Vinca who went missing one freezing night as her campus was paralyzed by a snowstorm. Several years later, three former friends bound by a tragic secret and the disappearance of their friend reconnect and try to find the truth about what happened the night Vinca went missing. The series is produced by Sydney Gallonde at Make It Happen Studio and co-produced by MGM International TV Productions and broadcaster France Televisions.

The conference started with a video address by Musso in which he revealed that he was working as a teacher at an international school in the South of France which influenced the novel. ‘The Reunion’ is the first TV series adaptation of any of his 19 novels and he is known for refusing many offers for adaptations, made for the wrong reasons, i.e. rarely for artistic reasons but rather because his novels are best-sellers and one of the conditions for adapting the novel is it be shot in the region where he spent his youth, where he family lived.

Sydney Gallonde commented that he has known Musso for a long time and he is a friend and he told him he should also work in film for international audiences. Gallonde commented that “Guillaume Musso is involved in every single second of this project … but through me, because the thing is, I made him a promise: I told him, I will protect your DNA, and will be involved 100% just to deliver something that you will be proud of.” Musso himself said in the video that “he has always come up with projects that were first of all because he read my books, because he liked my novels,” Musso said, “and because he had an artistic vision behind it, and it’s quite natural that I said ‘Yes’ to this project.” Director Bill Eagles commented that Musso is writing real page-turning novels of the highest quality and that “to have that material as a director is a rare treat, an absolute delight… with Guillaume’s writing you believe in all the twists and turns, and you believe that certain facts or story elements have been concealed because it came from the character’s problems; it didn’t come from the necessity of the plot.”

The series presents two time-periods, 25 years apart, with three main characters but the emotions and the personalities remain consistent. Vahina Giocante commented that the actors had to accept that the different actors brought their own vision of the characters at a different time and it was interesting to talk about the emotional journey, how life affects us – we are not the same 25 years apart. There was a lot of respect and care, tenderness and admiration for her character. Fitoussi commented that he tried to find a few details to show continuity with the actor who played his character when he was younger, to find some common traits with the character. On his character Gruffudd commented that his character is a writer and that there are certain aspects of Musso in this character “so when you’re representing the novelist and playing a novelist, you know, you want to try to adhere to the little subtleties that he’s written in his novels; It is almost as if Guillaume is representing himself in Thomas”. He added that in his opinion his character Thomas should not have returned to this reunion but against his better judgment he had to because he was obsessed with the past. Eagles commented about the character: “we have the psychology of denial, of obsessive love, of inappropriate obsessive love, of betrayal. And then of people trying to make amends for their crime. So, 25 years later, Fanny has become a doctor, and Max has become a politician trying to do good. It’s interesting, the character of Thomas, he’s become a writer. He’s still exploring storytelling and fantasy, and in a way his character is the most in denial.”

Eagles commented that “Guillaume Musso set out his characters so well at age 18, and understood their evolution over a period of 25 years, that the lines the characters were delivering in our present totally chimed in with the evolution of the characters from where we had seen them as young characters. If you believe in the writing you can make it work. Then we came with this exception cast. We did rehearse and look for tweaks and mannerisms. If we believe in the young cast, we believe in the consequences of their actions, murderous actions, actions of betrayal, of obsessive love, of denial, and then we inform these older characters with the same principles, and look at how those feelings and those emotions have festered over 25 years. Then when we bring these characters together, we find a total belief in and synthesis between the young and the old.”

Gruffudd also paid tribute to British writer Marston Bloom, who transposed Musso’s beautiful novel into a cohesive 6-episode arc in two-time periods, alongside Gallonde. Gallonde added there are two stories, like DNA you have to connect them, they had to translate it to a TV audience and Bloom is British. Before they started the adaptation, he and Musso met, “to be sure that the French part will be present in the show, and that the show will fit with the global audience,” and the universal nature of the story.

When commenting on the international nature of TV nowadays Gallonde commented: “six years ago, my English was non-existent; six years ago, I would never have imagined joining up with all these people; six years ago, I would have never imagined having MGM involved in a French production, based on a French IP. So for me, the international part of the novel was essential.” He added that for him it was exciting to have this talent from all over the world: Gruffudd from Wales, Salóme Gunnarsdóttir from Iceland, Ivanna Sakhno from Ukraine and French actors Vahina Giocante and Grégory Fitoussi and this is an achievement. Eagles added that there has been a micro-revolution of how they are making TV shows with subtitles and it comes from the streamers, viewers have gotten more used to watching a show that is, for example 80% in English and 20% in French or Spanish, the phobia of subtitles for broadcasters has gone away. People are open to movies from different territories.
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